Netanyahu at U.N.: Don't trust Rouhani, Iran's overtures a ruse

UNITED NATIONS Tue Oct 1, 2013 4:18pm EDT

1 of 3. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York October 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday dismissed a charm offensive by Iran's new president as a ruse concocted by a "wolf in sheep's clothing," and declared that Israel was ready to stand alone to deny Tehran an atomic weapon.

In a combative address to the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu assailed the trustworthiness of Hassan Rouhani, Iran's centrist president who has made diplomatic overtures to the United States and spoke by telephone last week with President Barack Obama.

"Rouhani doesn't sound like Ahmadinejad," Netanyahu said, referring to Rouhani's hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose annual U.N. addresses were stridently anti-Western and anti-Israel.

"But when it comes to Iran's nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf's clothing, Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community," Netanyahu said.

"This is a ruse," Netanyahu added. "It's a ploy."

Netanyahu's address, the last at this year's gathering of world leaders in New York, reflected Israeli worries that the emerging signs of what could become a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement might lead to a premature easing of international sanctions and military threats designed to deny Iran the means to make a bomb.

"Don't let up the pressure," Netanyahu said, adding that the only deal that could be made with Rouhani was one that "fully dismantles Iran's nuclear weapons program."

The United States, Israel and other countries accuse Iran of using its nuclear program to try to develop the capability to produce weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful energy purposes only. During his General Assembly speech last week, Rouhani said nuclear weapons "have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.

The Israeli leader referred to Rouhani's 1989-2003 tenure as the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, a time when he said Iranian "henchmen" killed opposition leaders in Berlin, 85 people at a Jewish center in Buenos Aires and 19 U.S. soldiers in a bomb attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

"Are we to believe that Rouhani, the national security adviser of Iran at the time, knew nothing about these attacks?" Netanyahu said. "Of course he did, just as 30 years ago Iran's security chiefs knew about the bombings in Beirut that killed 241 American Marines and 58 French paratroopers."

Netanyahu made clear that Israel, believed to possess the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, was prepared to resort to unilateral military action against Iran if it deems diplomacy a dead end.

"I want there to be no confusion on this point. Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. Yet in standing alone, Israel will know that we will be defending many, many others," Netanyahu said.

The bulk of his speech was about Iran, but he also touched on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying the Jewish state was prepared to make a "historic compromise." He faulted Palestinian leaders for not reciprocating enough.

Rouhani, who took office last month after being elected in June, projected a more moderate tone from Iran at the world forum last week, with long-term adversaries Iran and the United States now preparing for renewed nuclear talks.

Later this month, Iran will meet with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany in Geneva to pick up from last week's discussions in New York that included Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

IRAN WARNS ISRAEL

Iran has made clear it wants a swift deal that would lift the crippling international sanctions against it and put an end to the decade-long standoff over its nuclear ambitions.

In a response to Netanyahu's speech, Khodadad Seifi, a representative of the Iranian U.N. delegation, rejected Israel's allegations and told the 193-nation General Assembly Iran was "fully committed" to its nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

He warned Israel that Iran is able to respond to any Israeli attack, saying: "The Israeli prime minister had better not even think about attacking Iran, let alone planning for that."

Netanyahu said Iran's nuclear program had continued at a "vast and feverish" pace since the election of Rouhani.

"Like everyone else, I wish we could believe Rouhani's words, but we must focus on Iran's action," Netanyahu said, adding that sanctions should be tightened if the Iranians pursue nuclear projects while negotiating with world powers.

If there are any changes taking place in Iran, Netanyahu said, it was the result of pressure on the Islamic Republic.

"I have argued for many years, including on this podium, that the only way to peacefully prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to combine tough sanctions with a credible military threat. And that policy today is bearing fruit."

Referring to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Netanyahu said, "Since that time, presidents of Iran have come and gone. Some presidents were considered moderates, others hardliners."

"But they have all served that same unforgiving creed, that same unforgiving regime, that creed that is espoused and enforced by the real power in Iran, the dictator known as the supreme leader, first Ayatollah (Ruholla) Khomeini and now Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei," he said.

"President Rouhani, like the presidents who came before him, is a loyal servant of the regime," Netanyahu added.

Netanyahu also noted the thousands of years of Persian-Jewish amity that ceased with the fierce anti-Israel hostility ushered in by the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

At last year's U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu made headlines when he used a marker to draw Israel's "red line" across a cartoonish bomb he displayed as a visual aid during his speech to illustrate advances in Iranian uranium enrichment.

Though Iran did not cross that threshold, the Israelis worry that it has improved its technologies and is now capable of dashing toward a first bomb within weeks. On Tuesday, Netanyahu noted the Iranian heavy water plant Arak that, he said, could produce plutonium - another potential fuel for nuclear weapons.

After meeting with Netanyahu on Monday, Obama reiterated his determination to prevent Iran from getting nuclear arms. Both leaders said their countries were cooperating on the issue.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Comments (27)
delta5297 wrote:
And what evidence does Netanyahu have of this? Hassan Rouhani has offered a conciliatory tone and accepts the idea of compromise on principle. At the very least we are obliged to hear him out and see what he is willing to offer. The world’s response to Iran must be proportional to Iran’s actions, not simply follow the excessively heavy-handed punishments that Israel loves to dish out to its enemies.

Oct 01, 2013 3:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Who cares if the poor in the US do not have a place to live or food for their families? Who cares if thousands of US soldiers die fighting another war for Israel? Who cares if the US taxpayers are crushed under the weight of spending trillions of dollars on yet another unjust war for Israel. After all, those of us that are not jewish are just cattle in the eyes of Israel. Do what you are told to do by God’s true children. If our Congress does not know what is right listen to AIPAC.

Oct 01, 2013 3:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TBellchambers wrote:
Whatever happens in the negotiations with Iran, we are still left with a maverick nuclear state on the Eastern Mediterranean whose own nuclear capacity has to be neutralised. That can only be achieved by economic sanctions in the form of withdrawal of trading rights until such time as Netanyahu or his successor agrees to a Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East. That must and will happen – sooner or later.

The international community cannot be held to ransom for much longer by the stratagem of ‘nuclear ambiguity’ that has so contaminated the political scene for the past fifty years since JFK’s assassination. The paradigm shift has been a long time coming but the suspicion and concern that Netanyahu now elicits is proof of a sea change in international opinion.

If Netanyahu succeeds in procuring President Barack Obama to risk the lives of American servicemen by attacking a non- nuclear Iran to meet the political agenda of an Israeli cruise-missile state, will future American electorates ever again put a black Democrat in the White House, at least for the next hundred years, if the present incumbent subsumes the national interest of the Union to the military and political will of an expansionist, WMD-rich, nuclear, Mediterranean state, promoted by it’s foreign lobby In Washington?

Oct 01, 2013 3:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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